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Digital Storytime Ideas: Animal Sounds

Storytiming gave me a great idea for digital storytelling: Animal sounds!

There is someone in my garden,
Someone I cannot see.
There’s someone in my garden
Whoever can it be?

You can do this rhyme quite a few times, each time displaying a different animal and hearing the corresponding animal noise.

I downloaded Animal Sounds Game for Toddlers ($.99) and I use it on the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Kindle Fire.

Apps to Download

It’s the beginning of the fiscal year!  Huzzah! That means I get an apps budget and I can start downloading. The goal is to create a storytime collection of apps for our system’s children’s librarians to use in their programs. There are some low-hanging-fruit apps that I want to download right away to have ready for the early adopters who want to start playing with their iPads immediately. At this point I’m still learning what apps would be good for storytimes, and for what kind of storytimes (large room? small room? older kids? younger kids? projector? no projector?), so to begin this process I’m going to stick with book-based apps.  I’m going to refer to the March/April Horn Book and look at everything that was mentioned in there, as well as apps that were mentioned in There’s an App for That.  I’ll also take a look at the Cybil’s 2011 book apps nominations. All that might take awhile.  The plan is to review each of them and incude storytelling tips or each app.

Digital Storytelling: Setting the Scene

I had a meeting with some awesome children’s librarians at SCCL who are helping me on the road to digital storytelling. I showed up with an iPad, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, a Kindle Fire and a smart phone, all ready to show them how we could use Go Away Big Green Monster, Blue Hat Green Hat, digital photographs and Felt Board in our new digital storytimes. I was ready to hit the ground running and show them some cool stuff.

“Go high tech or go home,” said I, “No more of this analog storytime nonsense! Let’s lead the way into the brave new world of digital storytelling! Take no [luddite] prisoners!”

“Yay!” said they.


How do we deal with the fact that some of our libraries have smart rooms, with projectors in the ceiling, plug-in-and-go speakers and lots of space for the kids, and other libraries don’t even HAVE program rooms? How do we deal with crowds of 100+? Groups of only 3? What if we’re still using CDs instead of an iPod and the cords for the projector are a tripping hazard and it’s too darn complicated to set all this up just for an app or two?

Some of our communities are tech savvy already and might not want their children to have “more screen time,” and some of our communities are very low income and don’t have access to any kind of high quality interactive media. One special needs group that we were hoping to use for a pilot project has requested that no technology be used in programs at all (the kids work with interactive/assistive technology already- they want to focus on physical/sensory skills).

So there I am, ready to dive straight into the techy stuff, without considering that from some librarian’s perspectives, I’m asking them to do something which will require cables, projectors and hassle, and some of the branches don’t even use iPods in their storytimes.

We decide to go small. We’re going to try to set up a pilot project in a low-tech library with a special needs groups for low-functioning young kids (the other group was 5th-7th graders). I’m going to contact a children’s librarian in a large, high-tech branch to see if she can throw an app or two into one of her already existing programs. Another children’s librarian is going to use an iPad (no projector) with one of her very small storytime sessions. When we started this I thought it would be me holding the iPad, showing these other librarians how to do it; it turns out I may just be facilitating by asking my colleagues to try out an app on their crowd. And it’ll be my job to keep the apps, ideas and inspiration coming.

I think I can do that.

Tree Book vs eBook in Storytime

In this post I announced that I’ll be working on a digital storytime project where we will use apps and eBooks in storytime.  I’ve had a few people contact me directly, and some comments were posted publicly about this. I got one really good question in particular:

I’m curious as to the benefits of using an electronic felt board over a real felt board, and a book shown in eBook form over a book shared by a librarian. How do you feel using apps and digital media in a storytime setting enchances the storytime experience?

I’m glad you asked, dear reader! There are a number of ways in which digital media can enhance an early literacy program, but before we dive into those I want to be clear about my intention with this particular digital storytelling project: The goal is NOT to replace traditional, tree-book based storytelling entirely with a digital facsimile.  The goal is to use SOME technology to enhance traditional storytime in a way that improves the experience for all participants. I love this quote from Kiera Parrott:

It is tempting to operate as if supporting literacy is a zero-sum game in which the players are technology versus books.

The librarian will still be sharing books and reading out loud, but instead of holding up a book in one hand and panning around the room and usually missing a number of people in the audience, the image of the pages can be projected onto a large screen so no one has to squint or crane their necks to see the pictures.  Have you ever found an awesome book that you think would read really well in storytime, but the pictures are too small for it be viable in a room full of toddlers? (think Everywhere Babies– I can’t wait until there’s an app for that one!)  Now we have the option to make those images really big if the book is available electronically, and you can still take full advantage of a well-rhymed story or cute characters.

I also envision using both tree books and eBooks in the same program.  I’ve got a huge copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar with an adorable little plush toy that can physically move through the holes in the book.  There’s an app for that… but what I’ve got ain’t broke, so I’m not going to fix it.

There are some things you cannot duplicate digitally in a storytime environment: wiggling, egg shaking, clapping, stomping, waving scarves and throwing silk flowers into the air.  Those things will always be a part of storytime, but now we get to add yet more tools to the storyteller’s tool kit. It is not a case of digital felt board vs physical felt board; we can use either, or both, depending on what would work best for our audience and the intended learning outcomes.

Here are some ways that digital media can be used to enhance a traditional storytime:

  1. Project digital versions of books or felt boards to make the viewing experience easier for large groups;
  2. Use Storytime as a reader’s advisory tool to showcase the digital versions of storytime favourites;
  3. Introduce participants to the varied digital resources available through the library’s virtual branch;
  4. Support different learning modalities (visual, aural, oral, kinetic etc)
  5. Foster creativity and give parents ideas for how to engage their children with high quality digital media in an active, educational way at home.

Incorporating digital media into children’s programming also provides a fantastic opportunity for children’s librarians; we can use these emergent technologies to enforce the library’s relevance in everyday life.  Smart phones and tablets are here to stay, and as long as there are apps available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play, parents are going to download them and let their kids play with them. Why not show them where the good stuff is? That’s what we do, isn’t it? Children’s librarians know how to select the best quality media for children, they know what’s appropriate at what age, and they know where to find resources that point to good quality media. We need to establish ourselves as experts in this area; it’s a natural fit and we should be leading the charge into the exciting new world of digital literacy.